This summer’s national protests that demanded changes in policing included a call for more people trained to handle mental health issues, individuals who would be better prepared than police to deal with those suffering from psychological or substance-abuse issues.
Hopkinton appears to be well ahead of the curve on this issue.
For five years the Hopkinton Police Department has taken part in a jail diversion program, partnering with the Framingham-based nonprofit Advocates. Hopkinton is part of a regional program called ASHH that includes Ashland, Sherborn and Holliston. The communities share a co-responder, a social worker who rides with police to calls in an effort to direct those in need to get the necessary help.
“I’m so excited to reassure the community that we’re on top of this and we’ve been doing this for a long time,” Hopkinton Police Chief Joseph Bennett said during a recent appearance on HCAM’s Hopkinton Hangout Hour. “I’m really passionate about this program. It really does deliver the next level of care to the community, especially to those in crisis and those in need.”
What’s more, Bennett said the program costs the town “almost nothing,” as the majority of it is covered by Bureau of Justice assistance grants through the Department of Mental Health.
Ashley Scionti is the clinician who handles calls in the ASHH communities.
“What [the program] does here is it puts Ashley in our cruisers going to calls,” Bennett explained. “She is one of your first responders. If people call in crisis or with a psychological or maybe a substance-abuse problem or something where you might need someone who has a little more training and need to speak more about from a care level, Ashley, she’s in the training room, she jumps in the car and goes to the call.”
With the clinician addressing the issue, individuals can be kept out of jail and directed to the care that will be more beneficial to them.